I love Christmas. I love the songs, the weather, the lights, and oh man… the food. I love the food. I love Christmas gifts–buying them for others, and, of course, receiving them.
But I can’t be the only person in the world who experiences a bit of a hangover after Christmas. Not from overindulging in food, but from overindulging in STUFF. Once we’re ready to clean up the Christmas debris and put all the shiny new toys away… we suddenly realize that we have a crap-ton of junk in the house.
Some of it’s the presents, some of it’s all the food. I think a lot of it is the Christmas decoration clutter. It feels so good to put it away and have the house feel cleaner and more simple than it has been since September. I’ll admit, it’s a bit addicting, that feeling of packing away and tossing out old crap that you realize you don’t really need.
That’s why every year after Christmas, I make a New Year’s Resolution to get rid of a ton of my junk. While I’m never going to be that person with a capsule wardrobe, I am a big believer in the minimalist movement. To the point where sometimes when I look over at my bedside table and look at all the clutter crowding the surface–books, lotion bottles, mugs, chargers, pens, paper pads, jewelry, hairclips… it piles up so fast!–I actually feel disgusted and peeved.
Going minimal simplifies your life. Some experts even say that the simple act of ownership is a daily burden. Who needs that?! Shearing down your life to the essentials:
-makes it easier to clean up
-makes your house feel bigger
-makes room for new growth and new projects
-helps you shed your stresses and unwelcome emotional baggage
-makes it easier to travel, move, and make life changes
-reminds you of what’s really important in life (hint: it’s not STUFF)
Okay, okay, you say. I’m a fan of going minimalist, too. But there are a million reasons that we don’t put the principle into action. Sometimes we get started but lose steam. Many of us don’t even know where to get started. And then, of course… there’s kids. Kids get so emotionally attached to things! They have closetsful of toys, but God forbid you should get rid of a single plush animal.
Here are some practical ways to toss the junk, and actually make it happen!
The Expiration Date Box
This method, I’ve learned, is especially useful with kids. It’s also great for those of us who tend to get a little too emotionally attached to clothing. Put a bunch of clothes, or a bunch of toys, in a box (or bag) in the garage, or in a storage closet, out of sight. Mark the box with an “expiration date.” It could be 6 months out, or even as much as two years. I think that one year is a good marker. When you hit that expiration date, the box goes straight to the garbage bin, or to a donation center. Don’t open it up and see what’s inside! If you don’t want it before the designated time, it’s out! You obviously won’t miss it.
This is a great solution because you don’t worry about regretting something that you get rid of. If it’s really something that you miss, you can go get it. (Just make sure you fetch ONLY that item) With kids, this is great because most kids don’t really want something until they see it. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of their mind. Now, for those special few toys that they really do want, you can go fetch it back for them.
Fill ‘Er Up
Another way to really get rid of stuff is to give yourself a specific vessel–a large box, or a bag–and make a goal to fill it up and get rid of it. Something about the reversal in mentality (from “taking away” to “filling up”) makes the process less painful. In fact, it even becomes a fun game with kids. This is especially good when you can make it a donation opportunity. Tell your kids that other children out there are in need of beautiful toys, and challenge them to fill up a box with their choices.
Have a huge project? Maybe a horrifyingly full garage, yard, or attic? Go big! It’s not as much as you might think to rent a dumpster. When you make the plunge, you’ll want to get rid of more and more stuff, because you want to get your money’s worth. You can even go in on it with a few friends. Make a book club of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and afterwards, have a disposal party.
5 a Day
If “going minimal” always seems like too much of a project, or you often find yourself losing steam before you can make any headway, turn it into a daily project and take small bites at a time. This also keeps you from filling up your trash bin too quickly. You can do this by making a resolve to get rid of 5 things each day in the month of January. The first few days will be easy. The second week will probably be the hardest. But as you persist, you’ll start seeing the benefits of having less and less stuff around. By the end of January, you’ll have made a habit of letting go, a powerful talent that more of us should learn.
Some Last Reflections
I know that spring is the traditional time to clean things up, but in nature, housecleaning happens in the fall. Trees shed their leaves, plants drop their fruits and flowers, and strip down to the essentials. Fall shows us the beauty of letting go. The austere simplicity of winter gives us time to rest and reflect. It fosters new plans, and makes way for the new growth that comes in spring. So, internalize the message of the season and take some time to cut back this winter. Let us know how it goes for you! What kinds of changes did you see in your house? What techniques work for you?